Gove pledges ‘decisive action’

Schools will be made to “actively promote British values”, Michael Gove said yesterday, as it was confirmed that five Birmingham schools have been placed into special measures in the wake of the “Trojan Horse” allegations.

The Education Secretary told MPs that the Government will take “decisive action” following the findings of Ofsted, as well as the Education Funding Agency (EFA), warning that all schools could now be subjected to unannounced inspections while schools that have failed will be put under new leadership.

His comments came as Ofsted issued a damning verdict on the running of a number of Birmingham’s schools.

Inspections conducted following claims of a takeover plot by hardline Muslims found that a “culture of fear and intimidation” has developed in some schools and, in several, governors exerted “inappropriate influence” over how they are being run.

A separate EFA report into Park View Educational Trust (PVET), which runs three of the schools rated inadequate by Ofsted and has been at the heart of the alleged takeover plot, concluded it has “many weaknesses” and restricted its curriculum to a “conservative Islamic perspective”.

In a statement to the Commons, Mr Gove warned that in future any school could be subjected to tough, on-the-spot, inspections “with no advance warning and no opportunities to conceal failure”.

He acknowledged that there were questions for the Department for Education, Ofsted and Birmingham City Council about whether there were “warning signs” of problems in Birmingham schools that had been missed.

What is Trojan Horse all about?

The Trojan Horse allegations orginated with a letter, now widely believed to be a hoax, which became public several months ago. The unsigned and undated letter referred to an alleged five-point plot – dubbed Operation Trojan Horse – by hardline Muslims to seize control of the governing boards of several Birmingham schools by forcing out uncooperative headteachers and installing friendly governors.

The document was first sent to council officials and teaching unions late last year. It claimed to have caused “a great amount of organised disruption”, including forcing a change of leadership at four schools. A number of anonymous whistle-blowers made claims that at some schools boys and girls had been segregated in classrooms and assemblies, sex education had been banned and non-Muslim staff bullied.